New coordinator Jones sparks Alcorn defense

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

LORMAN &045; When it came time to find a defensive coordinator, Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas went through all the necessary procedures.

But he had an idea who he wanted to hire.

So he went through all the interviews, did all the reference checks and tried to determine who was the best possible candidate for the vacancy created when Karl Morgan left for a similar position at Hampton. So when it came down to who was the best candidate, it was former Mississippi Valley State head coach LaTraia Jones &045; the guy he had known for quite some time.

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&uot;Ever since ’93,&uot; Jones said of his relationship with Thomas. &uot;You hear about jobs through the grapevine, and I gave him a call. We started talking about coming in, and he had two other candidates in mind. I came in, interviewed and did enough to convince him. Everything else went on from there.&uot;

The two go back a ways to the two coaches’ stints at Arkansas-Pine Bluff when Jones served as defensive coordinator and Thomas an assistant professor in the school’s health and physical education department.

It was there made an impression on Thomas as the Golden Lions lost in the NAIA national championship game to Montana State in 1994 largely due to their defensive Jones’ efforts.

The two later went their separate ways as head coaches &045; Jones at Valley and Thomas at Alcorn.

Jones left Valley in 2001 and arrived at the Lorman campus following last season.

&uot;When then position became available, he interviewed for the job and was the most impressive one,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;I had an opportunity to know him as a person and a coach. Coach Jones brings a great deal of organization. He’s very knowledgeable as a defensive coordinator.&uot;

What better way to make a debut than what the Braves’ defense did Saturday in a 34-10 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Golden Lions’ offense tallied just 55 yards rushing and got just three points after taking inside the red zone following a turnover.

The team’s only touchdown came on a kick return.

&uot;We were fortunate,&uot; Jones said. &uot;Everything went our way. I inherited some great ball players. We put together a great game plan. I enjoy working with those guys. I feel like I’m blessed.&uot;

It’s a staff of assistants Garry Lewis, Willie McGowan Jr. and Eric Garcia who he credits to helping getting things rolling right off the bat like that defensively. Of course, having experienced players on that side of the ball helps, too.

The defense has mostly seniors and some experienced juniors with all having experience under their belts from seasons past.

&uot;He’s real good at teaching the defense,&uot; senior linebacker Omega Logan said. &uot;I think he’s mastered the art of good cop, bad cop. He’ll get on your butt and you may hate him, but then he’s telling you you’re doing a good job. He’s not always on your case, but he’s not always on your side.&uot;

If Saturday’s game was any indication, the unit may respond well to Jones’ motivation. But this is a unit that played well down the stretch last year and was one of the better defenses in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

That win, however, has been put away as the Braves host Grambling in their home opener at 7 p.m Saturday. It’s already billed as the biggest game in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

The Tigers have won the last three SWAC championships and are favored to win a fourth this fall. They enter the game a week rested following their 29-0 loss at Division I-A San Jose State.

&uot;We’ve got a big test here against Grambling,&uot; Jones said. &uot;Grambling is a good team, and Doug has done a wonderful job there. Everything centers around (QB Bruce Eugene). The kid is an All-American.&uot;